Is it COVID? Or Something Else?

October 27, 2022 10:00 AM

Student Health Services

Since the pandemic, the focus has been on one virus, but we want to remind you there is more than Covid going around!  Feeling sick can be especially concerning this fall semester. Could you have COVID? Or is it the flu? Or just a cold? Or maybe seasonal allergies?

We know it can be tricky trying to figure out what is making you sniffle, cough, or feel tired because many share some symptoms. But figuring out the culprit can help you recover quicker and prevent spreading sickness to others.

Do I have the Flu or is it COVID?

Flu (Influenza Virus) and COVID (SARS-CoV-2) are caused by different viruses that can be spread among people. Both can give you a fever, cough, headaches, and body aches.

Both of these viruses are spread similarly. They’re transmitted by small particles that come from your nose and mouth when you sneeze, cough, sing, or talk, raising the possibility of infecting people who are nearby. Infected people may not have symptoms but can still pass the virus to others.

Someone with flu usually has symptoms 1 to 4 days after being infected. A person with COVID-19 typically shows symptoms about 5 days after infection, although this can range from 2 to 14 days.

Could I have seasonal allergies? Or a common cold?

Just like flu and COVID, colds are also caused by viruses and can be passed to others. Symptoms of a cold tend to be milder. You may have a runny nose, cough, congestion, and sore throat. However, typically you won’t have body aches or a fever which are more common with COVID and flu. Often, you’ll feel better after a couple of days.

Allergies can cause a runny nose and sneezing. But they’re not contagious. If your eyes, nose, or ears itch, that also could be an allergy.

Upcoming winter season

Winter is the prime cold and flu season. You’re more likely to be indoors and closer to others when it’s colder outside. Weather also plays a role in the spread of viruses. Flu cases usually spike around October and peak between December and February. Being infected with flu and Covid at the same time is possible, as is showing symptoms of both.

Strategies for Staying Well

Getting your flu shot and COVID booster vaccines are important in fighting these viruses. These vaccines are safe and effective ways to protect yourself and your community. Flu vaccines are designed to protect against the four types of flu viruses that scientists expect to circulate that year.

Other behaviors to protect you during this time of the year:

  • Washing your hands regularly and often, especially before you eat or prepare food.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
  • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Stay home when you don’t feel well

See this chart for comparisons of Covid, Flu, Cold, and Allergies.